Conservative workers should look to unions for voice


Growing up in a conservative household in Walla Walla, I was taught the value of hard work, earning your own way, and working to improve the lives of others. I learned that even in America, no one is promised success; we have to fight for it. These are lessons I learned from my father.

Today, despite working harder than ever before, working families are finding it increasingly difficult to get by, let alone get ahead. No matter where you fall on the political spectrum, Americans can feel that our economy is out of balance.

That’s why I am a proud conservative and an active member of my union, the Washington Federation of State Employees of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

By speaking up together, union members are able to negotiate with their employers for fair wages, benefits and safe workplaces that sustain American families. When more people belong to unions, middle class income rises.

But these days it’s hard to ignore the wedge that some are trying to drive between conservatives and their unions. Even though a growing number of Americans support unions — including nearly half of conservative voters — some say that being conservative and a union member is a paradox.

In our state, special interest groups have launched a campaign with the sole purpose of trying to get union members, especially conservatives, to stop paying their dues. They call it employee freedom, but the simple truth is no one is ever forced to join a union or pay fees that go to politics or candidates they don’t support. Conservatives do have a voice.

Our union’s Conservative Caucus members in Washington are vocal, and many of us hold leadership positions throughout the state and national union. In a union of 1.6 million members, there will be disagreements, but one thing we all can agree on is that strong unions create strong communities.

That’s why I am deeply concerned about a case backed by self-serving special interests before the Supreme Court called Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association. This case could make it even harder for working people to speak up together through their unions to negotiate for better wages that sustain their families, making the already out-of-balance economy even worse.

The plaintiffs in this case want the court to allow them to avoid paying their fair share for reaping the benefits of a union contract. Those aren’t the conservative principles my father taught me.

The Friedrichs case weakens the ability of hardworking Americans like firefighters or teachers to come together, speak up and get ahead. I hope the Supreme Court takes a stand for true conservative values and protects our freedom to join together for a better future.

Alice Rogers is community corrections specialist in the Tri-Cities and a member of the Conservative Caucus of the Washington Federation of State Employees, AFSCME Council 28.